Saturday, October 23, 2021

My Personal Rim Job (Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon)

HI! Do you hear something? That is the sound of me resurrecting this blog from the annals of the blog graveyard. I know there are other causalities out there. But, this resurrection could only be done for something epic like me not having to poop during a 48.3 mile run.

Or, maybe that I even did a 48.3 mile run.

Or, maybe that the 48.3 mile run was done from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon down to the Colorado River, up to the North Rim of the canyon and back again. In one day! This is called Rim to Rim to Rim or if you are really cool, you call it R3.

48.3 miles. 12,000 feet of elevation gain. 18 hours (about 15 hours moving time - yea we took lots of pictures and stuff).

Yea, I know other people, many other people, have done this before me and will do it after me. Yea, I know this is something crazy ultra runners do for fun and torture because we are like that. But, this is ABOUT ME. I did R3 last Saturday and I need to process it so can you please read about it? Not to mention, I scoured the internet obsessively before doing R3 for other people's reports on their day so this is my way of giving back to the R3 world. 

Would it be shocking if I told you I tried to buy a hat to wear during the run that said "I {heart} Rim Jobs" (this exists; of course it does), but it didn't come in time. 

I have no clue when I first decided to do this. Probably after 5 glasses of chardonnay on a Tuesday. Julie agreed we would do it and that was that. Team Beth and Julie. Team Bulie. Team Jeth. Whatever.

We really committed to it all back in March when I reserved our room at a lodge in the Canyon. You have to do these things 500 years in advance. And, you have to pay out the ass for what looks way less nice than the Rosebud Motel from Schitt's Creek (but was actually quite nice on the inside). Yavapai Lodge FTW.

Plans made, training started, researching commenced.

I control my anxiety and make up for anything that I lack like common sense by over preparing. You have no idea how many hours I put into planning my gear, fueling, hydration, route, water sources. I really did think of it all. In the end I didn't bring anything but duct tape because that's all anyone really needs in life. I kid, but I actually did bring duct tape (pro tip: wrap a few feet of duct tape around a business or credit card to make a for a lightweight travel option!)

We flew to Phoenix on Friday October 15. As I boarded in Denver, I approached the gate agent with my zipper fully down (not intentional) and he seemed pretty excited about it saying "Well, alright! Here we go!". I had a glass of wine at 8:30 a.m. on the flight because I was anxious. We drove 3 1/2 hours to the Grand Canyon, stood on the South Rim and said "Holy shit what the actual hell have we gotten ourselves into?" We went to the tavern and had pizza and beer and prided ourselves on the fact that we were truly living life and taking risks. Then I slept for a total of 3 hours because I was so stressed about truly living life and taking risks.

Looks easy

The R3 Eve. Still looking perky and hopeful.

2:30 a.m. Packs ready to go. Water filled. Layers on. Went to the lodge to choke down microwaved oatmeal. I don't really eat oatmeal but it seemed like the thing to do. Parked near the Bright Angel Trailhead (where we would finish in God knows how many hours). Called the 24 hour taxi service (no ubers/lyfts in the park). Got picked up and paid $14 cash at the South Kaibab trailhead where we were dropped and left to die. Had some quality time with the pit toilet. On a side note, most people take the South Kaibab trail down and Bright Angel back up because Bright Angel is more gradual and there are two water sources on the trail (SK has none).

What a wrinkled mess of crap

Well, how do YOU look at 3 a.m eating oatmeal?

I suppose I am half way crying and half way still asleep. Or drunk.

4 a.m. Darkness. Wind. Cold. Let's go descend this fucker of a trail into the abyss. Poles in hand, headlamps on. We screamed "We are doing it!" as I tried not to look over the edge. For the next 7 miles we descended in complete darkness, howling wind and dust flying into my contact lenses. I could sense the extreme drop offs, but couldn't see them. The sun came up just in time for us to see the Colorado River at the bottom. Holy shit. We are at the Canyon floor. Only 2% of people ever actually go below the rim of the canyon and we were at the bottom.

Seems safe

A couple miles from the bottom we came across this lone cross. It was really beautiful.

Just for fun, this is what part of the trail looks like in daylight. Gulp.

About to cross the Colorado River for the first time on the Black suspension bridge

7 a.m.
Reached Phantom Ranch, topped off our water and ate. Ditched the layers and stuffed them into our packs (DO NOT stash clothes or anything else along the trail. This is considered littering and the rangers will take stuff). It is about 40-50 degrees warmer at the bottom of the Canyon than at the rim. We were aiming to eat 200 calories per hour. I carried 3L of water in my pack and it weighed a million pounds but that is better than it weighing no pounds and me succumbing to dehydration like 200+ people do a year in the Canyon (I told you I did my research). I was NOT going out by helicopter no matter how cool and Hollywoodish that sounds.

9:30 a.m. Arrived at and passed through Cottonwood Campground after running a very gradual uphill through the "box" of the canyon for about 7 miles. Started the remainder of our long ascent to the North Rim (about 7 miles and 6,000 feet). Ate a turkey and cheese sandwich on a Wonder Bread bun and chugged some Tailwind.

12 p.m. Arrived at the North Rim to snow on the ground and cool temperatures. 22 miles in! The climb to this rim was slow going, but very manageable and we just kept pushing forward. It was indescribably gorgeous so I won't try to describe it <that's how smart I am. Just go do it someday. There were multiple places where the trail was literally cut into the side of the canyon with very steep drops. Thank you amazing trail workers in the 1920s who made this trail for me. Just for me. I wasn't modest about literally hugging the inner canyon wall. At the top of the rim we had cell service for a minute (there is none in the canyon at all), so texted the entire universe to let them know we made it about half way and would be done in 9 to 10 hours. I then stuffed my face with trail mix, more turkey/cheese and Tailwind. Popped some Tylenol like candy.

Hi North Rim! Sorry we can't stick around. 

12:30 p.m. to sunset: There is just something mentally uplifting about being halfway done with anything. I could be doing a one mile run and once I get to .5 miles, I rejoice. The only thing was - it wasn't exactly halfway. It was one rim to the other, but the way back is longer (as in - it ended up being over 26 miles). We maneuvered down the North Rim pretty quickly, but my left knee was bugging me. Shut up knee! Asshole. I knew I had many many miles of climbing to go, so I tried to not panic. My go to when things are tough is to not assume will get any worse and to just keep moving forward. And, to pop 4 ibuprofen at a time which is really good for both your stomach and your liver. Walking seemed to hurt as much as running, so we kept running. We knew the sun would set at 5:55 p.m. (I plan! I research!), so our final 10 mile climb would be in the dark with the mountain lions, steep cliffs and homicidal maniacs. Foreshadow.

Just taking a stroll


Over the course of the day my trail name became Gritty Titty. I'm down with that.

I mean....stunning

Sunset: We topped off our water for the last time at Phantom Ranch while watching the visitors (who either packed in or came down by mule) eat their steak dinner and drink their damn wine and beer. It's fine! I'll just suck on some more of my spigot water through my bladder tube and eat my soggy Wonder Bread. There is infamous lemonade that you can buy at the canteen but it was closed for the day. It was the countdown to the finale with only ten miles to go. We estimated that if we could do 20 minute miles as we climbed 6,000 feet we'd be done by 8:30 or 9pm!! Way earlier than we thought! In time to go to the tavern for a burger. HAHAHAHAHA. It was really funny we thought that was possible.

6:30 pm. Headlamps back on and we cross the Colorado River for the last time. We start our long ascent to the top of South Rim. Shut up knee!! It's starts off super gradual with the soothing background of a roaring creek, chirping crickets and croaking frogs. Literally no one was out there with us, which felt unnerving. But, then I looked up and way up where God lives or where heaven is or at least Jeff Bezos there were twinkling headlamps. For fuck's sake. We were hiking up there. This is about the time Julie noticed a flashing red light behind us that kept getting closer and closer. We could look down at the switchbacks and see it coming. It definitely belonged to a person, but why did they have a red light instead of the usual white light? Obviously because they were coming to get us. Julie was really scared and at one point told me to "go faster." I was like "what the HELL Julie! I am climbing up the Grand Canyon at night with over 40 miles in my legs. I can't go faster. I will just have to die instead." We passed other hikers and Julie warned them about the flashing red light coming soon. Finally, the red light was upon us, so we pulled off to the side to let "it" pass. Well, "it" was a female ranger HAHAHAHA!  "Julie you have been afraid of a RANGER for the last hour! Julie is afraid of RANGERS! Julie warned people about RANGERS coming to get them." It actually still is funny to me.

8:30 p.m. We hit the 3 Mile Resthouse. ONLY three miles to the top. In real life, not Canyon life, that would take about 30 minutes. Well, these three shitty miles went on for a literal lifetime. If you ever do this run/hike you will hate these final miles and you will want to destroy them. Shut up knee! You will keep looking up when you think you are at the top and you will see lights taunting you above - hikers still climbing. You will pass people lying on the trail and puking (not kidding!). You will find curse words streaming out of your mouth as you trudge on, afraid to stop because your legs might not hold you. You will stop and eat a salted watermelon GU because you think it will give you life to climb that final mile. And, it does. 

Warning on the trail that you might throw up. Thanks.

10:00 p.m. Then, there she is. The TOP in all of her glory. We saw it steps away and both broke into tears. No matter the planning or the best of intentions, so much can happen over the course of this day that you cannot control. Things that will thwart your attempt to finish R3. We knew and accepted that. But, here we were, at the top, DONE. All the the training, anticipation and effort behind us. I am still processing that day that felt like a lifetime of memories. That I got to share it with a dear friend of 25 years was a true gift. That my almost 55 year old body allowed for this type of journey is not lost on me. If able, do it while you CAN. That thing you've been wanting to do but haven't. Because, honestly, there will be a day when you can't. 

God, I look crazy. 


Pack: Salomon Adv Skin 12 (seriously the BEST pack ever; worth the investment)
GPS Watch: Suunto 9 Baro (best battery life out there)
Sunglasses: Goodr
Shoes: Salomon Wild Cross
Socks: Ridge Supply
Shorts: Asics
Tank: GRIT tank from Stephanie Bruce (got tons of comments on this)
Jacket: Salomon Lightening Lightshell
Long Sleeve: Lululemon Swiftly Tech
2nd Jacket: Patagonia Nano
Poles: Black Diamond Distance FLZ
Headlamp: Black Diamond Storm
Gloves: Athleta
Visor: Ironman


2 Salted Watermelon GUs
2 turkey/cheese sandwiches
2 Honey Stinger waffles
1 sleeve Honey Stinger chews
Handfuls of monster trail mix
1 Snickers bar
Handfuls of gummy fish


2 L Tailwind (lemon lime)
3-4 L water
10 Salt Stick tabs


First aid supplies
Duct tape
Extra headlamp (in case one went out, which happened)
Water filter - Sawyer
Emergency blanket
Ibuprofen and Tylenol
Extra shorts
Extra socks
Hand warmers
Sunscreen and lip balm (Sun Bum FTW)
Trail map
Cash for snacks, lemonade at the canteen and for taxi ride
Extra contact lenses

Optional: (we did not have these)

GPS Spot or similar - shows your location since your phone won't work
Travel Insurance - in case you need to be rescued (World Nomads)
Tampons/pads (We are too old for that shit) HAHAHA

Now, GO GET IT! Oh, and thanks for reading. Say "hi" in the comments. Please.